Superior (Class of 1980)
When Rick Meyer spins around, the discus usually sails a long way. By the time he was named the Hastings Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Year in 1980, Meyer had already embarked on a record-setting career. The first Nebraska prepster to eclipse the 190-foot mark, Meyer won the all-class gold medal as a junior and the Class B gold medal as a senior. Also all-area in football and basketball, Meyer accepted a track scholarship to the University of Houston where he was a three-time Southwest Conference champion, a five-time All-American (twice in the shot put) and the NCAA champion in 1985 and runner-up in 1983. His senior year he set the NCAA meet record of 209-10. Ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. for nine years, Meyer placed fifth in the Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986 and was an alternate for the Olympics in 1992. His younger brother, Andy, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Wayne (Class of 1963)
Don Meyer made his mark nationally as a successful and legendary college basketball coach, setting a record with 923 wins at Hamline (MN) University, Lipscomb (TN) University and Northern State (SD), but his playing accomplishments can’t be overlooked. The only player at Wayne High School to have his jersey retired, Meyer averaged 20 points per game as a junior and 26.5 points per game as a senior for teams that were a combined 32-5. He also starred as a pitcher on Wayne’s first high school team and its American Legion team. At the University of Northern Colorado, Meyer was a four-year starter in basketball, leading the Bears in scoring his junior and senior seasons. He also went 22-2 as a pitcher on the UNC baseball team that nearly qualified for the College World Series. He has been inducted into Wayne High School, Northern Colorado and the NAIA Halls of Fame, and is the subject of the movie, My Many Sons.
Sidney (Class of 1952)
Jon McWilliams was noted for his speed. Labeled “Greased Lighting” after a three-touchdown performance against Oshkosh, the Sidney senior sprinted to Class B all-state honors in football and the 120-yard high hurdles silver medal at the state track meet, helping his team win the state title. McWilliams, who lettered all four years in high school in all three sports, was also a mainstay on the basketball team. Selected as Western Nebraska’s Football MVP by the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, McWilliams went on to earn All-Big Seven honors at Nebraska after being switched to end. One of the first black players of the modern era, McWilliams was a three-year letterman in football and ran track for the Huskers. He played one year for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Athlete. As an outstanding athlete at York High School, Rita has often been referred to as the greatest female athlete around, whether it was cross-country, basketball, track, volleyball, or softball. During her sophomore year (1976-77) York won the first Class B Girls State Basketball Tournament and Rita tossed in the winning basket with 4 seconds remaining in overtime. This was the first of two state championships during her high school career. Her high school basketball career produced honors such as high school All-American, super state, all-state two years, all-conference two years and honorable mention all-state her sophomore year. In volleyball, she was named super state, all-state and all-conference. As a senior she was runner-up for female athlete of the year in Nebraska. Highly recruited in four sports she chose the University of Wyoming and basketball. She was the leading scorer and rebounder for the team and posted impressive stats in rebounds with 1,006, scoring with 1,578 points and steals with 151. Rita coached at Trumbull, Western Illinois University and Harvard. She moved to Lincoln in 1991 and in 1993 became the fifth female fire fighter in the city’s history.
Lincoln, Nebraska, firefighter Rita Makovicka died unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 22, 2001. The death of the active, healthy 39-year-old, who had been in excellent physical condition, has stunned and baffled her co-workers and friends. “None of it makes any sense,” co-worker Deb Lefferts told a local newspaper. “It just doesn’t seem real.”
Makovicka had been on the Lincoln Fire Department since 1993. She was named its Firefighter of the Year in 1999, had received two unit citations, and chaired the department’s minority recruitment committee. She had been planning to attend the WFS conference in Georgia the following month.
Raised in a small Nebraska town, one of thirteen children, Makovicka began playing basketball in high school and was on the Girls State Basketball Team in 1977 and 1979. Her local newspaper named her its “Female Athlete of the Century.” Six feet tall by her senior year in high school, and excelling in volleyball, basketball, track (hurdles, shot put, and long jump), and softball, she was offered Division I athletic scholarships in all four sports. She ultimately chose to attend the University of Wyoming on a basketball scholarship. She later became an assistant volleyball coach at Western Illinois University, and then a coach at Harvard High School, before becoming a firefighter.
Following her death, it was announced that Mackovicka had been chosen last October to be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame this spring. The public announcement was made a few weeks early due to her death.
An autopsy was performed a few days after her death, with inconclusive results. A memorial service was held at the Firefighters Union Hall on February 26; Lincoln firefighters attended in full dress uniform. Her funeral was held the following day at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mackovicka’s home town of York.
Named The World-Herald’s Nebraska high school coach of the year in 1955 at Falls City and its college coach of the year in 1961 at Peru State. At Falls City from 1946 to 1956, his football teams were 71-17 and his basketball teams were 126-47 and won the 1956 Class A title. At Peru State from 1956 to 1973, his football record was 23-20-4 and his basketball record 250-174 with four trips to the NAIA nationals. He was elected to the Helms Athletic Hall of Fame in 1957, the NAIA Football Hall of Fame in 1957, the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame and Peru State Hall of Fame in 1986. He died in 1994 at age 77.
Athlete. Several political legends and public servants have walked within the fair city of McCook, Nebraska, but this 1947 graduate of McCook High School is one of the leading athletic legends. Known as a triple-threat in the high school sports of football, basketball and track; he helped the Bison run roughshod over opposition on the gridiron for three years with a football record of 24 wins, 4 losses and 1 tie; including the state championship year of 1946. Interestingly, he was named all-state his last year as a quarterback and all-state the previous year as a fullback. Also named to all-state level in basketball, playing in the state tournament three times. His impact upon high school track & field was a lasting one as both a sprinter and a hurdler, once holding the state record in the high hurdles.
Omaha World-Herald 12.28.2013:
Leo McKillip was a high school star in McCook, played football at Notre Dame and brought a Dana College football program to life.
But his favorite stories always took place off the field, said his son, Blaine.
“He was really focused on how to develop people through sports,” Blaine McKillip said.
The elder McKillip, 84, died Tuesday from complications after a fall.
William “Leo” McKillip’s athletic exploits stretch back to his high school days in McCook from 1944 to 1947. He started four years in both basketball and football and won several gold medals in track.
He was part of the football team that was named Class A state champion in 1946, and his basketball team reached state three times.
He also played baseball.
McKillip disappointed many in Nebraska when he decided to play football for Frank Leahy at Notre Dame. Leahy had learned under another Irish legend, Knute Rockne.
“He knew even then he wanted to coach. And he wanted to learn from the best, so he played for Leahy,” Blaine McKillip said. “When Notre Dame played Nebraska (in 1948), he got booed.”
McKillip lettered in 1948 and 1950 at Notre Dame.
“As a kid, we had pictures of him going out to USC games. Pictures with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and things like that,” Blaine McKillip said. “We had pictures of him scoring touchdowns, which is kind of neat.”
He also ran track for the Irish.
McKillip coached at Kimball High School, Idaho State and St. Mary’s College (Calif.) and was a defensive coordinator at Edmonton and Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League and with the Washington Federals of the short-lived USFL in the 1980s.
He came back to Nebraska to retire, but served as the head football coach for eight years and athletic director at now-closed Dana College in Blair, Neb. Only 30 players showed up for his first practice in 1985, but in 1987, the Vikings reached the NAIA Division II national playoffs.
McKillip was chosen as The World-Herald small-college coach of the year following that season.
He’d tell his children, “In coaching you are either in the penthouse or outhouse, and I’ve been in both places.”
McKillip, who had a doctorate in education, kept in touch with many of his former athletes, especially those at Dana.
His athletes were at the center of some of McKillip’s funniest stories, his son said.
When he was at Idaho State, the whole team purchased horns during a visit to a shopping center while on a bowl trip.
“Then they’d go into another store and start honking from throughout the store,” his son said.
“He never talked about the games. He talked about how much fun they had as a team.”
McKillip was inducted into the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame in 1996, the Dana Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
The 2011 event was special to granddaughters Molly and Madeline because former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne came over and talked to them about what a great coach their grandfather was and how he’d listen to his exploits on the radio.
“It means a lot to them,” Blaine McKillip said.
Blaine and his wife, Tracy, have five children and one grandson. McKillip also is survived by son Creighton, who played for his dad at Dana. McKillip’s wife, Patsy, died in 2000.
Robert Murray displayed his devotion to high school sports first as a successful coach and then as a historian, organizer and volunteer. His coaching career included whistle stops at Fort Calhoun and Omaha South before he returned to his alma mater, Omaha North, in 1962, where he coached golf and basketball until 1992. He also contributed to Omaha North by compiling a book documenting the history of the school’s athletic teams with results and records dating back to 1924. He organized displays of all the school’s trophies, memorabilia and record boards when the new athletic facility opened in 1993, and he continues to update the records. Omaha University’s only athlete to letter in two sports in one season, playing baseball and golf at the same time, he organized the first state girls golf tournament and was the director of many Metro Conference and NSAA state and district events.
Coach. Sometime during an outstanding track career at Peru State, Cecil McKnight decided he wanted to be in the coaching profession. He started at Morrill and then moved to Plattsmouth as track and cross-country coach where he spent 38 years. His teams won four Class B championships, of which three consecutive wins were in cross-country in 1973, ‘74, ‘75 and the ‘76 state track and field championship. Also in those years he had 262 individuals qualify for the state meet and seven individual state champions.
The Blue Devil harriers finished in the top ten 14 times in 20 years at the state meet. Other coaching duties included assistant in football and basketball as well as junior high basketball coach at various times during his tenure. His retirement gift from the school: The track and field complex now bears his name, a great tribute.
Paul Mohr led Scottsbluff to the state basketball tournament semifinals in 1950, earning all-state and all-tournament honors. He also earned all-state honors in football and led the Scottsbluff American Legion baseball team to a state runner-up finish, batting .544. In addition, he was a three-year letterman in track. Recruited by the University of Texas to play basketball, he switched to baseball after his freshman year, becoming a two-time All-Southwest Conference first baseman and a second-team All-American. He played for the Longhorn team that twice qualified for the College World Series. Signed by the Cleveland Indians, he played minor league baseball for six years.
Contributor–Good sports writing is a good part of enhancing high school athletes in Nebraska. One of the major contributors over the years was this talented writer, known for painstaking accuracy, whether associated with the Hastings Tribune, the Gering Courier or the Scottsbluff Star-Herald newspapers. Covering sports was his number one priority and with much effort he became a noted historian of high school sports throughout the state over the years. If anyone had a question about Nebraska sports, Madden usually got a call. Most of the time he could answer it right off the top of his head. If he couldn’t, he had a library of newspaper clippings arranged in 300 books dating back to 1941. Madden made it a point to be informed. Certainly, Western Nebraska athletes could rest assured they would receive their fair share of publicity due to the calm, fair judgment of this respected sports scribe.
Item From Hastings Tribune, 1997 == By Kyle Svec, Tribune Sports Editor
Nebraska lost one of its biggest sports fans Saturday.
For parts of seven decades, Bill Madden devoted himself to the game. He loved to watch and write about the contests played by boys and girls in Nebraska high schools.
Along the way, he earned the respect and admiration of coaches, athletes, teachers, parents and readers of newspapers -especially the Hastings Tribune, Scottsbluff Star-Herald and Gering Courier. He spent 46 years of his life at the three papers.
Madden died Saturday at the age of 78 in Scottsbluff.
Madden was a wealth of knowledge when it came to sports history in Nebraska. Even as his body failed him, his mind stayed sharp. Just a week and a half ago Tribune sportswriter Terry Douglass called Madden to discuss the 1954 Hastings High boys state basketball championship team.
Madden talked Douglass’ ear off with recollections. Madden was sports editor of the Tribune then. And he told the stories of 1954 like they happened yesterday.
Anyone who started talking sports with Madden knew they were in for a long conversation.
I called Bill last fall to discuss his induction into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of fame.
Two hours later, I had four pages of notes with very little pertaining to the induction. That’s the way he was.
If anyone had a question about Nebraska sports, Madden usually got a call.
Most of the time he could answer it right off the top of his head. If he couldn’t, he had a library of newspaper clippings arranged in 300 books dating back to 1941.
Madden made it a point to be informed.
He said: “I always thought I needed to know more about my team than anyone else. There was no reason to go out there and cover them if I didn’t.”
Notice how Madden referred to the team as “his team”.
That was his way. His style of writing was down-home. the kind hometown fans enjoyed. Good news or bad news, folks knew they could count on Madden – just like a member of the family.
During our phone conversation, I asked Madden what he calls his hometown.
He paused and responded: “Every place I have been, I have called my hometown.”
Madden offered some other observations during our conversation:
– He said the dedication of old-time writers is not equaled today. Although I am a writer of today, I found it hard to argue.
– He said he never found much use for interviews. “The old-time writers went more for the contest,” he said. “Young writers today go for the social aspect.”
– He said being inducted into the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame was one of the nicest honors he’d received, noting that he belonged to a trapshooting hall of fame and a wresting hall of fame despite the fact he had never fired a shotgun or wrestled.
The one aspect of athletics Madden didn’t care for was fans who criticized coaches, teams or players. “There’s always going to be that core of fans that don’t know what sportsmanship is,” he said.
Madden was a true sportsman. And generations of Nebraskans benefited from it.